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Migrants Know Your Rights! Ontario's Emergency COVID ID Requirement (Excerpt)

A guide on what to do if stopped by the police

by Butterfly: Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support NetworkInternational Human Rights Program (U of T Faculty of Law)No One is Illegal TorontoOntario Coalition Against Poverty

Toronto Police watch demonstrators. Credit: Fernando Arce
Toronto Police watch demonstrators. Credit: Fernando Arce
During the pandemic, police have been granted new powers that disproportionately target migrants, street-bound people, sex workers and other vulnerable groups. It is thus important to know what happens if caught in a confrontation with law enforcement officers.
The following is an excerpt from a document outlining the new law, titled: "Migrants Know Your Rights! Ontario's Emergency COVID ID requirement." It was prepared by No One is Illegal Toronto, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Butterfly: Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network, and the International Human Rights Program, University of Toronto Faculty of Law. 
What you can do if you are being stopped by police or another law enforcement officer?
Develop a strategy of what you will do if you are confronted by a law enforcement officer
  • If you get stopped by officers who don’t have a warrant for your arrest, you may be required to produce your name, date of birth, and address or risk getting fined.
  • Generally, only police have the powers to arrest or detain, however they can ONLY do so if they have reasonable cause to believe you are breaking a criminal law – not producing ID is not a criminal offense but can still result in a ticket.
  • However, if CBSA get called in by other law enforcement, they DO have the power to arrest and detain you if you do not properly identify yourself or they have reasonable grounds to believe you are here without valid status.
  • If you’ve already identified yourself to frontline officers, and they keep asking you questions, you do NOT need to answer them. You could ask the officers, “am I being detained or am I free to go?”
  • If the police speak to you, under Ontario’s Emergency COVID ID Requirement, you are required to provide your name, date of birth, and address. However, you are NOT required to answer any further questions.
  • Eventually they will either arrest you or let you go, running away during questioning may lead to additional charges.
  • If an officer claims to have a warrant for your arrest, you have the right to ask to see it.
  • Make sure you are the person named on it and that it is dated and signed.
  • If there is a mistake, point it out to the officer.
Safety plan checklist
  • Have the number of a trusted lawyer or immigration consultant.
  • Give a spare set of house keys and email information to someone you trust and who can access your important documents and tell others living at your house what happened.
  • Have the number of someone who can contact your lawyer, take care of your children/dependents, tell your work about your absence, and be a bondsperson.
  • Find support from friends, family, religious or community organizations, neighbours, and other allies who can rally together to help you get out of detention.
  • Give someone you trust your immigration client ID so that a lawyer can locate you if you are detained.
  • Know your specific risk of immigration and criminal arrest and detention (e.g. is there a warrant out for your arrest? Do you have expired immigration status that may put you at risk?).
What you can do if you are arrested
  • If you are arrested and detained you have a right to:
       - Know the reason(s) for your detention;
       - Use an interpreter;
       - Talk to a lawyer or other legal representative;
       - Receive medical attention;
       - Practice your religion; and
       - Contact a representative of your country’s embassy or consulate. Speak to a
         lawyer first if you’re afraid of your government and want to make a refugee claim.
  • If you’re being held in Toronto at the Immigration Holding Centre (which is usually referred to as “Rexdale”) you can request the assistance of TRAC for legal information. TRAC operates an office at the Immigration Holding Centre Mondays to Thursdays. Their telephone number is 416-401-8537.
  • Staff from Legal Aid Ontario’s Refugee Law Office regularly go to Immigration Detention Centres in the Toronto area. They can provide legal advice by phone and might be able to represent you at your detention review if you meet their eligibility criteria. You can call the Refugee Law Office collect at 416-977-8111 or toll-free at 1-800-668-8258.
  • For criminal matters, duty counsel are still available for bail hearings and other criminal matters but may only be available by phone during the COVID-19 outbreak.
For more information:
Migrant Know Your Rights Guide (No One is Illegal Toronto)
Immigration Law and Sex Workers’ Rights Guide (Butterfly)
I am not a Canadian citizen. Can immigration authorities detain me? (Steps to Justice)
Prepared by:
No One is Illegal Toronto
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
Butterfly: Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network
International Human Rights Program, University of Toronto Faculty of Law
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Fernando Arce (Fernando Arce)
Member since May 2014


Fernando Arce is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Toronto and writes strictly from an anti-imperialist, anti-colonial stance. His work is devoted to amplifying the voices of the grassroots and working classes as well as those of Indigenous Peoples resisting colonialism around the world. He sits on the Media Co-op's Board of Directors as an Editorial Representative and has been a member of the New Canadian Media-Canadian Association of Journalists collective since February 2021. He has a BA in Political Science from York University and an MA in Journalism from Western University. His latest work can be found at He blogs at

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